International Space Station celebrates 15th birthday

The International Space Station turned 15 on Monday. (NASA)

The International Space Station turned 15 on Monday. (NASA)

The International Space Station has plenty to celebrate.

Not only did astronaut Scott Kelly set the American record for continuous days in space last week but the space station where he resides turned 15 on Monday. The first station crew docked Nov. 2, 2000 and Commander William Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko spent 141 days in space.

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Since Expedition 1, there has been a continuous human presence aboard the space station for 5,478 days and counting.

“I believe the station should be considered the blueprint for peaceful global cooperation. For more than a decade and a half, it has taught us about what’s possible when tens of thousands of people across 15 countries collaborate to advance shared goals,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

Bolden called the space station, which had its mandate extended through 2024 by President Obama, “a testament to the ingenuity and boundless imagination of the human spirit.”

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“The work being done on board is an essential part of NASA’s journey to Mars, which will bring American astronauts to the Red Planet in the 2030s,” he said.

John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also celebrated the anniversary of the space station, which he called “a unique laboratory that has enabled groundbreaking research in the life and physical sciences and has provided a test bed for the technologies that will allow NASA to once again send astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit.”

“The international partnership that built and maintains the Station is a shining example, moreover, of what humanity can accomplish when we work together in peace,” he added.

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The celebration is a welcome distraction for the station, which has endured several mishaps this year. The arrival of a Soyuz space capsule carrying a Russian, an American and Japanese to the space station was postponed two months after the April failure of an unmanned Russian cargo ship.

And twice this year a glitch forced the space station to shift orbit – the latest last month when engines on a Russia spacecraft unexpectedly misfired.